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Saturday 18 January 2020

No bluff: Fitzwilliam Card Club folds over new law

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Shawn Pogatchnik

The Fitzwilliam Card Club - one of Ireland's best-known all-night poker venues - announced last night it has closed with immediate effect, blaming the move on the Government's new gambling act.

In a statement, the club, which is overseen by David Hickson and Paul Cryan, said it had informed its nearly 80 staff they would lose their jobs "due to the legal threat posed by the Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Act".

For the past decade, Mr Hickson has been vocal in calling for regulation of gambling clubs in hopes of strengthening the sector.

But a club spokesman said the business now faced the risk of "criminal prosecution" if it continued to operate under the new law.

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The Act, which passed all Oireachtas stages last week but has not yet been signed into law, establishes an updated regime of licences and permits for gaming and gambling operations, including bingo halls.

The Fitzwilliam Card Club, which opened in 2003, specialised in late-night poker and typically operated from 7pm to 5am seven days a week.

In its most recent accounts Golden Horseshoe Ltd, the club's operator, reported 2018 losses of €269,025 and net assets of €1,291,344 at the end of the year.

A club spokesman said its directors had lobbied the Government and Opposition figures to amend the gambling bill.

"Sadly, our pleas fell on deaf ears," the spokesman said.

In its statement, the club said its solicitor had advised "that the Act broadened the definition of 'unlawful gaming' to any gaming without a 'gaming permit' or a 'gaming licence'".

"The Fitzwilliam Card Club is not entitled to apply for either a 'gaming permit' or a 'gaming licence' and consequentially, the Fitzwilliam Card Club was forced to close," it said.

The club's website and social media feeds offered no information that it was closing.

Its Facebook and Twitter accounts showed a selection of winners - the most recent dated December 3 - engaged in roulette, blackjack, punto banco and three-card poker.

Irish Independent

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